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Family of murdered teenager question Tweed's comments

(Maeve Connolly, Irish News)

The family of murdered Ballymena teenager Michael McIlveen have expressed concern at comments made by a DUP councillor at a council meeting.

The DUP's Davy Tweed had said he "questioned the upbringing" of 15-year-old Michael who died last month, a day after an attack in Ballymena which police have said was sectarian.

Mr Tweed also claimed "people associated with the family" had since intimidated Protestants in the town and that Protestant students were scared to go to school and in some cases had been told "they'll be taken off the school bus and have their throats cut".

However, the teenager's uncle, Francis McIlveen, said the comments "can't hurt Michael".

"Things like that make us stronger. We have more important things to worry about, like the family," h said.

The family has consistently called for no retaliation and urged politicians to work together to heal sectarian division in the Co Antrim town.

Mr McIlveen said Michael was an average teenager with Catholic and Protestant friends whose main interest was playing sport.

"If his upbringing was what [Mr Tweed] said it was why was Michael not carrying weapons with him?" he said.

Mr McIlveen said he had asked police to tell him if there had been any threats made against Protestants in the wake of his nephew's death but that he had not been made aware of any.

At Monday night's council meeting Mr Tweed had said there was an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing of Protestant families from the north of Ballymena.

The DUP councillor claimed that these families had reacted with "disbelief" to the sympathy shown to the McIlveen family.

Mr McIlveen questioned this and said the Protestant community had offered "great support" and that Mr Tweed would have known this had he visited the family.

"Where does this stop? We are trying to keep kids above the ground and not under. Do we want someone else to die and someone else to die...? Things need to be changed.

"Did anyone say anything at the [council] meeting about Gina's grieving and her heartbreak for losing her son?"

He called for elected representatives to meet "people working on the ground on both sides".

"Politicians need to go to them and see what help they need. They need to stop talking and start acting. I'm pleased the motion was passed and maybe it's a good sign for things to come."

A Sinn Féin proposal for the creation of a council committee dealing with sectarianism was rejected by the unionist-dominated council at Monday's meeting.

The SDLP proposed a motion expressing "deep regret and sadness" at "the sectarian murder" and an acceptance of Bishop Patrick Walsh's call at Michael's funeral for "a united voice on justice, equality and rights and a united voice condemning all public manifestations of sectarianism".

This too was defeated and replaced with a DUP motion which referred to the "recent tragic death of a 15-year-old boy in the town of Ballymena".

The motion called for councillors to support the good relations initiative set up during the year by the outgoing DUP mayor.

The initiative involved meetings between Church leaders, the business community and educationalists and although it was created by the then DUP mayor it did not have the full support of the party.

The McIlveen family has called on politicians to support the mayor's lead.

  • PROFILE Ex-rugby player who is a staunch Orangeman

    Ballymena DUP councillor Davy Tweed is a former Ireland rugby international who won his council seat after his involvement in the loyalist protest at a Catholic church in the town.

    He is a member of the Orange Order and entered politics when his lodge was banned from marching through the nationalist village of Dunloy in the mid-1990s.

    This ban led to a nine-month loyalist picket outside the Church Of Our Lady, Harryville.

    Mr Tweed had been a DUP councillor on Ballymoney council but following his support for the Harryville protest he was asked to run in Ballymena where he was successful in the 1997 elections.

    He has unsuccessfully tried on several occasions to overthrow the Parades Commission decision to ban members of Dunloy LOL 496 from marching through the village.

    In 1997 he and three other senior internal critics of the Orange Order were the subject of a disciplinary hearing after 30 Orangemen staged a demonstration outside the order's Belfast headquarters against the decision of its education committee to speak to the Parades Commission.

  • June 8, 2006

    This article appeared first in the June 7, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

    This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News